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Saturday, April 29, 2006

A radical step

Monday is a no work day......maybe

National Boycott Plans Creating a New Divide
By Teresa Watanabe, Anna Gorman and Nancy Cleeland, Times Staff Writers
April 29, 2006

Los Angeles restaurant worker Jose Mendez says he will risk his job.

The 45-year-old illegal immigrant plans to skip work and march for immigrant rights on Monday for one reason: He hopes someday to become a legal resident of the United States. After six years here, he wants to visit the family he left behind in Mexico — without fear of arrest on his way back.

Lupe Moreno, 48, a Santa Ana social worker, American citizen and advocate for immigration control, will not join in the national boycott of work, school and consumer spending. After she finishes work, she said, she will engage in her own form of activism: purchasing a $1,000 big-screen TV to "support the U.S. economy as a proud Latino American."

And Luis Magana, a worker at the Sara Lee Bakery Group factory in Vernon, is still torn about what to do. "We want to show that our work counts. We pay taxes and help the economy," Magana said, referring to himself and his fellow workers. "But we need our jobs too."

What began as a call for action by a small group of Los Angeles activists three months ago has gained dramatic momentum in recent days — with the boycott even drawing support from the California Senate. Some now see it as a measure of whether the newly energized immigrant rights movement will crest to new heights, stumble or provoke anger that hurts the cause.

The outcome is difficult to predict.

As of Friday, marches, rallies and other events were scheduled in at least 68 cities across 23 states, with hundreds of thousands expected to turn out in Chicago and 50,000 in Seattle. While turnout in Eastern cities such as Washington was expected to be light, demonstrations are expected in at least 25 California cities.

In Los Angeles, police are preparing for two major marches, estimating the combined turnout at about 500,000. One, sponsored by the March 25 Coalition of mostly Latino grass-roots organizations, is scheduled to begin at noon and move from Olympic Boulevard and Broadway to City Hall.

The other, sponsored by the We Are America coalition of labor, religious and community groups, is set to begin at 4 p.m. in MacArthur Park and proceed along Wilshire Boulevard to La Brea Avenue.

The two events represent somewhat of a split in opinion, with the Olympic march organizers supporting the worker and consumer boycott, and the MacArthur park activists taking a neutral stance. Some behind this march — including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony — oppose the boycott as counterproductive.

Locally and nationally, organizers expect to draw more diverse crowds into the streets.

In Chicago, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and members of his Rainbow Coalition have pledged to participate. And in Los Angeles, some African American community leaders, Korean American churches and businesses, Filipino workers, South Asian immigrants, Jews and Muslims have all announced their intent to march.

Organizers are urging peaceful rallies, but reports of possible walkouts by students and strikes by truckers and cab drivers, meatpackers and hotel workers, grocers and gardeners have raised concerns of havoc.

"It is going to be devastating to us because we are going to be 30,000 containers behind" if truckers don't show up to transport cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, said Stephanie Williams, senior vice president of the California Trucking Assn.


A recent survey by Garcia Research, a Burbank firm specializing in Latino market research, found overwhelming support in Los Angeles for a boycott of work and consumer spending.

"After so many years of working so hard, people feel they don't have voice," said Carlos Rojas, the firm's political analyst. "They see it as a way of showing the rest of society the power and dignity of the Latinos."

Feelings are running so high in some heavily Latino areas that many employers don't feel comfortable not closing for the day.

In Maywood, where 78% of the city's 30,000 residents are Latino, "they don't want to deal with the headache of showing up for work and having fingers pointed at them," said City Councilman Sam Peña.

For some workers, the decision of what to do — to boycott or not, even to march or not — fills them with fear. But many also are excited, infused with a sense of historical destiny.

"This is so we can all walk free," said food vendor Maria Aguilar, "those of us who have papers and those who don't."

The atmosphere in other U.S. cities, such as Atlanta and Houston, appeared to be different. Organizers of boycotts and demonstrations there said recent immigration raids probably would intimidate many workers into staying on the job.

Enrique Lopez, 39, owner of Carniceria Durango in the Atlanta area, said he and his five employees would take the day off. But a large rally, he said, was out of the question.

Like many workers, small businesses owned and heavily patronized by immigrants faced tough decisions.

In the bustling produce district south of downtown Los Angeles, John Rusconi wrestled with whether to close down his Santa Maura Spice and Garlic Co. on Central Avenue. He had announced earlier that the fragrant warehouse would operate as usual on Monday but was having second thoughts.

"The customers are asking if we're sure we want to be open when no one else will be," he said.
Black activists have wanted to do this for decades and never found a single cause to rally around. Civil rights has always been about local conditions with a national cause. The civil rights bills of the 60's required national attention for local action. And local boycotts have failed miserably. There was Black Solidarity Day in the 70's, but it was unfocused towards any single goal.

I mean, they weren't going to ship us back to Africa. So progress has always been more individualized.

But talk about waking a sleeping giant, jesus. Of course, Bush tossed more logs on the fire by complaining about the National Anthem being sung in Spanish. So what? Sing it in Portuguese, Russian, German, I could care less. There is no official langauge in the US and never has been. English is merely the lingua franca, not mandated by law. You need to speak English to get ahead, but we don't have scenes like a Canadian judge speaking in French to a room full of Anglophones because it's the law.

I mean, all this blather about Mexican flags and the National Anthem is thinly disguised race baiting anyway. I mean no one complains when Dixie is played and the Stars and Bars waved. No one calls that unamerican.

Which has driven the national boycott to an amazing level. I think a lot of people are in for a shock when shit can't get done on Monday.

This is an absolutely radical step, and if even half the number of people they predict pull it off, the GOP is fucked. Josh Bolten can talk about the Border Patrol and Bush riding an ATV all he wants, he won't be getting back the Hispanic vote any time soon. Why? Because this is the kind of thing which has driven working people, people who don't take days off unless a kid is puking all night, to skip work and take to the streets.

This has gotten personal Every two-bit peckerwood who hates anyone with brown skin has been insulting these people since this mess started. Hispanics take personal dignity seriously, and Lou Dobbs and friends have been trampling on it like a rug.

I wonder when Ms. Moreno gets hard looks from her neighbors, she'll feel comfortable about buying that TV. These folks seem to be heart attack serious about this, the only debate being can they afford not to show to work. And with people willing to risk their jobs and school over this, especially in SoCal and the Southwest, this feels like something big.

I haven't seen polling on this, but of all the mistakes the GOP made, of all the dumb things they did, this could be the undoing of the party's national ambitions.


Because this sends a horrible signal to minorities, that their interests are fungiable, that they can toss them aside to appease the base, even if that could cost them support. They have worked on hispanic voters for over a decade. Bush was popular with them.

Not any more.

The base isn't large enough to counter the anger here. And the naked racism on display has been amazing, Pure hatred contenanced as political opinion. The problem for people like Ms. Moreno is that ALL hispanics have been deemed unworthy, not just illegals. And we are far away from a rational discussion on immigration and border control. We like secure borders just fine, but we can't secure them by alienating Mexico and Canada.

This could have been handled so much better, with compassion for people, especially those who turned 18 while appplying for legal status. Instead, it's time to sing the Johnny Rebel and whip out the sheets for the "base". Which means nothing will change until people stop the race baiting and name calling and look at this as a law enforcement and social issue. Not a plan to ship all the brown people back.

posted by Steve @ 9:08:00 AM

9:08:00 AM

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